Is it time to up­date your home’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem?

The Hamilton Spectator - - SPEC HOMES -

The in­vis­i­ble sys­tems in a home of­ten are taken for granted. When such sys­tems are work­ing as ex­pected, daily life moves along smoothly. How­ever, when a sys­tem goes awry, it can neg­a­tively im­pact rou­tines and may cre­ate a dan­ger­ous home en­vi­ron­ment. This is es­pe­cially true when some­thing goes wrong with a home’s elec­tri­cal sys­tem.

Faulty wiring is a lead­ing cause of res­i­den­tial fires. Many home­own­ers, par­tic­u­larly those who live in older homes, might be liv­ing in prop­er­ties that have out­dated elec­tri­cal sys­tems. The ex­perts at Lowes ProSer­vices state that hav­ing old wiring and/or in­suf­fi­cient am­per­age in a house can en­dan­ger res­i­dents. It also may dam­age ap­pli­ances and make it dif­fi­cult to sell a prop­erty in the fu­ture.

It can be dif­fi­cult to gauge ex­actly when to over­haul an elec­tri­cal sys­tem. Un­less cir­cuits rou­tinely trip or lights of­ten dim, home­own­ers may put off the work. But de­grad­ing wires or overex­tended cir­cuitry can pose a fire risk, so it is best to ad­dress elec­tri­cal sys­tems promptly.

Home in­spec­tions may un­cover elec­tri­cal prob­lems. Some home­own­ers may dis­cover po­ten­tial trou­ble while mak­ing ren­o­va­tions that re­quire open­ing up walls or tear­ing them down, ex­pos­ing the wires. Still other home­own­ers learn about elec­tri­cal sys­tems when they’re adding new, large ap­pli­ances or other gad­gets that con­sume more power than ex­ist­ing items. These de­vices may con­tin­u­ally cause power out­ages in the house, such as trip­ping the cir­cuit breaker or pop­ping a fuse.

When it comes time to up­date the elec­tri­cal sys­tem, it is al­ways best to work with li­censed and bonded elec­tri­cians who have the ex­per­tise to work with elec­tri­cal wiring with­out get­ting in­jured. This is not a do-ity­our­self type of job since it re­quires spe­cial­ized train­ing.

Elec­tri­cians likely will rec­om­mend up­grad­ing the elec­tri­cal panel to bring more power from the util­ity poles into the home. This can in­clude re­plac­ing the ex­ist­ing me­ter and cir­cuit breaker box to al­low it to han­dle more power or re­plac­ing items that are ob­so­lete or dan­ger­ous.

Many older homes are only ca­pa­ble of han­dling a min­i­mum num­ber of amps, uti­liz­ing just a few cir­cuits. But nowa­days, when home­own­ers have far more elec­tron­ics in their homes than they once did, in­creased de­mand on elec­tric­ity can over­load a cir­cuit (all of the out­lets linked on one wire). Trip­ping a cir­cuit breaker is a safety mea­sure to pre­vent the wire from be­com­ing over­heated and caus­ing a fire. How­ever, in some old sys­tems, the cir­cuit breaker will not trip, and this can be prob­lem­atic.

Rewiring a home is an­other step. Wire in­su­la­tion can de­te­ri­o­rate over time, and new wires may be needed. This can be messy and time-con­sum­ing, but it’s a small price to pay for safety. When rewiring an elec­tri­cian also may sug­gest new out­lets. Many home build­ing codes now re­quire out­lets with ground fault in­ter­rup­tors, or GFIs, in kitchens, bath­rooms and other rooms ex­posed to mois­ture. Some older homes may not even have three-pronged out­lets, so this will ne­ces­si­tate an up­date as well.

Elec­tri­cal sys­tems are the heart of a home, de­liv­er­ing power where it is needed. It is es­sen­tial to keep such sys­tems up-to­date so they can han­dle the power de­mands of ev­ery­day life. (MCC)

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